Speaking of anger and negative connotations towards and of feminists: Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses, but is pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program for humans!
The lack of sensitivity and understanding that is reflected by the way sexual assault has sometimes been reported by the media is detrimental to societal attitudes and maintains the oppression of victims of sexual assault and women. We must encourage compassion and sensitivity towards victims when reporting sexual assault., and take steps towards eradicating the misrepresentation of sexual assault. Sexual assault has continued to be viewed as insignificant when, in reality, sexual violence has deeply impacted our communities and our denial of this fact perpetuates cycles of victim persecution as well as an acceptance of the culture of violence against women.
Unfortunately, most of the time sexual assault is not considered to be a “real crime” unless it is especially brutal, fatal or almost fatal. What people don’t realize is that the majority of sexual assaults are “acquaintance rapes.” This is when rape and/or other sexual violence is committed by someone the victim knows personally. Contrary to common belief, sexual assault is less likely to be perpetrated by a stranger.
We must reframe our conceptions of sexual assault and reexamine who we accept as perpetrators of sexual violence. We often believe that kind, “good”, intelligent people are incapable of rape. They are not. Too often, newspapers, magazines, television and radio programs unknowingly glorify sexual assault by presenting incidents of sexual assault in a biased manner. Societal attitudes demonstrate that the connotations of victim evoke disbelief, judgment, pity, and/or disgust.
Instead of reinforcing negative behaviors, let us face the uncomfortable truths. How can we be bystanders to sexual crimes that impact so many people in our communities? Silence and denial fosters more silence and denial. The more negative our attitude towards victims, the less sexual assaults are reported, resulting in inaccurate statistics and insufficient information. Sexual assault, according to the FBI, is the most underreported crime in the nation.
The Culture of Violence
Our attitudes about the domestification of women, keeping women “in their proper place”, promotes oppression and violence as well as the objectification and commercialization of women’s bodies. Sex and violence sells, so it is no wonder that the sexualization of women in the mainstream media results in the systematic punishment of women in society. Another barrier to eradicating sexual assault is “tradition.” Men are seen as protectors, which translates into ownership and female dependence. These ideas of masculinity, that men should be dominant, strong, and aggressive are societal manacles. These images are replayed over and over until we are desensitized to violence and violent images. This unfortunately results in the blurring of the difference between forcible sex (rape) and a consensual sexual relationship.
Women who become victims remain unique individuals versus community members. They are isolated rather than being assimilated into a supportive community structure. Whether we are conscious of this fact, or not, it is true that all men benefit from one man raping. This means that the patriarchal system is perpetuated because in this structure women need “good” men to protect them from the “bad” men. It reinforces males as dominant protectors. I also believe that patriarchal anger and the negative connotations towards and of feminists hinders the possibility of a unified effort in fighting sexual violence and violence against women. These arbitrary divides divert us all from the primary goal: supporting survivors and holding rapists accountable.